Miners in the Pilbara could soon have greater access to renewable energy options after Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) gave a large-scale development project the thumbs up.
The EPA said it had recommended environmental approval for the wind and solar renewable energy project, subject to conditions including managing and monitoring impacts on migratory birds.
EPA Chair, Dr Tom Hatton, said the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub comprised a series of onshore wind turbines and solar panels situated about 220 km east of Port Hedland, with a transmission cable corridor to the coast and subsea cables to the edge of state waters.
The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will generate up to 15,000 MW of renewable energy in Western Australia, with up to 3,000 MW dedicated to large energy users such as new and expanded mines and downstream mineral processing, the owners of the project say. “The bulk of the power will enable large scale production of green hydrogen products for domestic and export markets,” they added.
Dr Hatton said NW Interconnected Power Pty Ltd’s proposal included the construction and operation of a large-scale renewable energy project with an expected operational lifespan of 50 years.
“One of the key environmental issues the EPA considered was the proposed clearing of 11,962 ha of native vegetation, and its potential impact on fauna habitat, flora and vegetation,” he said. “The EPA also considered the potential impact from the construction and operation of four subsea cables on benthic communities and habitat, marine environmental quality and marine fauna.”
Fire management was also considered a key issue, with a staged fire management strategy proposed to monitor the potential impacts and benefits of a landscape-scale prescribed burns program, according to Dr Hatton.
The proposal involves the construction of up to 1,743 wind turbines, solar panels, above and below ground transmission cables and four subsea power cables, covering an onshore and offshore development envelope of 662,400 ha, the EPA said.
“The EPA recommended that the proposal be implemented, subject to conditions including consultation on management plans with relevant stakeholders, including traditional land owners,” it said.
The EPA’s report on the Asian Renewable Energy Hub to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing on May 18. The Minister for Environment will make the final decision on the proposal, it added.